A fleet of 36 Mercedes E320 diesel powered cars left Paris today on the start of a 14,000 km (8700 miles) journey to overland Beijing, China. The group consists of 33 E320 CDi models and three E320 BlueTec variants. As this is written the cars are all near Mercedes-Benz hometown of Stuttgart, Germany. The group is due to arrive in Beijing on November 17. A total of 360 drivers from 35 different countries will get to drive the cars over the 5 stages of the trip. En-route the cars will pass through St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg in Russia, Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Lanzhou, China before reaching their destination.
According to Mercedes, the intent is demonstrate the global potential of their diesel technology. This is not a speed race, instead the drivers will be trying to achieve the lowest total fuel consumption on each of the five stages and over the full distance of the trip. The drivers will be retracing the route of the original Beijing-Paris trans-continental race run 99 years ago which was won by Scipione Borghese in 62 days, three weeks ahead of his competitors. The fleet will include both two- and all-wheel drive versions of the E320. The driving group includes journalists, VIPs and people who applied to Mercedes through an Internet campaign that netted 50,000 applicants. The Mercedes press release and more photos are after the jump.
Start of the long-distance route Paris - Beijing 2006: Mercedes-Benz starts unique diesel marathon from Europe to Asia
Paris, Oct 21, 2006
An extraordinary automobile adventure started today in the French capital. This afternoon, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, 36 Mercedes-Benz E-Class vehicles powered by clean diesel started on a long-distance journey of over 13,600 kilometres to Beijing, where the fleet will arrive on 17 November. Mercedes-Benz intends to use the diesel marathon across two continents to demonstrate the global potential of its drive technology. Over the course of the five stages, a total of 360 drivers from 35 countries will be seated behind the wheels of the E-Class models, which will cover a combined distance of more than 490,000 kilometres before arriving in the Chinese capital.
"The long-distance route from Paris to Beijing is not about speed. Rather, the sporting challenge for the participants is to achieve the lowest possible consumption on the individual stages and across the overall distance", declared Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the DaimlerChrysler AG Board of Management and Head of the Mercedes Car Group, yesterday evening in the Automobile Club de France, the oldest automobile club in the world. "70 years after Mercedes-Benz launched the diesel engine in series car production as the first manufacturer, we want to demonstrate again the high level of performance of the modern diesel engine in terms of emission, economy and range, even under the most extreme conditions. We are convinced that in future modern diesel engines can continue the success story around the world, something which has long been reality in Western Europe with market shares of over 50 percent."
The fleet for the long-distance route is made up of production E-Class models, some of which have the four-wheel drive, 4MATIC. In addition to 33 E 320 CDIs, the field also includes three E-class vehicles with BLUETEC. This forward-looking technology makes the Mercedes-Benz saloon the cleanest diesel in the world. Worldwide, the E 320 BLUETEC is the first and only diesel engine that generates figures below the extremely strict US BIN8 exhaust gas standard, particularly in respect of nitrogen oxide emission. The 320 BLUETEC has been sold in the USA (in 45 states) and Canada since 15 October 2006. The engine consumes up to 30 percent less fuel than comparable vehicles with the gasoline engines in North America. With its enormous range of up to 1,200 km on one tank, it is predestined for an automobile marathon such as the Paris – Beijing – just as is the E 320 CDI.
The route of the "E-Class Experience" passes through France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Kazakhstan to China. The itinerary largely follows that of the first transcontinental car race in history, which was run between Beijing and Paris 99 years ago. On this occasion, the aim of the French initiators was to demonstrate the technical superiority of the car over the horse. The winner was the Italian aristocrat, Scipione Borghese, who crossed the finishing line after 62 days, with his competitors arriving in Paris three weeks later.
In a re-run of the long-distance route, 360 drivers from 35 countries will be sitting behind the wheel on the five stages – of between 1,750 und 3,550 kilometres. These include international journalists, VIPs and online applicants selected from more than 50,000 Internet applications. Due to the overwhelming demand, Mercedes-Benz increased the number of E-Class vehicles to 36 saloons shortly before the start. The most unusual vehicle in the fleet is a Parisian E-Class taxi, which is to accompany the convoy across the total distance over eight borders and six time zones.